The song begins with the wife busy in her cooking and other chores. As the wind picks up, the husband tells her to close and bar the door, but she insists that he do it himself. They make a pact that the next person who speaks must bar the door, and the door remains open. At midnight two thieves enter the house and eat the pudding that the wife has just made. The husband and wife watch them, but still neither speaks out of stubborn pride. Amazed, one of the thieves proposes to cut off the husband's beard and molest the wife. Finally the husband shouts "Ye’ve eaten my bread, ye hae druken my ale, and ye’ll mak my auld wife a whore!" The wife responds "Ye hae spoke the first word. Get up and bar the door."
In some versions, the husband is named as Johnie Blunt of Crawford Moor. Child notes that the song was used by Prince Hoare to provide one of the principal scenes in his musical entertainment, No Song, No Supper, performed at Drury Lane in 1790.
Among many things, this folk ballad talks about the sense of lasting competition in a relationship. The man tries to maintain his power but the woman refuses because she does not want to be treated like a doormat. The ballad makes the point that being stubborn has no benefits, by being stubborn they lost pudding and subjected their possessions to be stolen.